UNHCR distributes aid to Afghan refugees affected by conflict in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, July 29 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency has distributed aid packages to some 600 registered Afghan refugees who found shelter in and around Peshawar after fleeing the recent conflict in north-west Pakistan.
UNHCR staff handed over sleeping mats, jerry cans, sheets, quilts, soap, water coolers and kitchen sets to more than 80 families, comprising about 600 people, at Azakhel Refugee Village on Tuesday.
The families have been staying with relatives or in rented accommodation since fleeing from North West Frontier Province's Swat, Buner and Dir districts, where about 70,000 registered Afghan refugees live, many in special settlements.
UNHCR Associate Protection Officer Fawar Aamir said the relief items would help make life easier for these Afghan refugees living in the community and for those hosting them. "These people are reluctant to relocate to existing Afghan refugee camps in the hot weather and prefer to stay with relatives or in rented rooms," he explained.
For many of the displaced Afghans, the fighting and their forced flight brought back bad memories of their original escape to Pakistan from Afghanistan.
"The bombardment in nearby villages reminded me of the conflict in Afghanistan," said Atiqullah, a 50-year-old refugee from Kabul. "We had to run for our lives then and now, once again, after living in Swat for years, we had to run again." Atiqullah lives with his cousin on the outskirts of Peshawar after fleeing his home in the Swat district town of Matta.
Ahmadullah fled to Pakistan with his parents and siblings from eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province when he was a child of seven. "I only remember that we had to walk for hours and I was very tired," he recalled. Today, some 30 years later, he is staying with relatives near Peshawar after fleeing the Swat district capital of Mingora, where he has a small grocery store.
"The situation was not good, there was a curfew and we could not leave the house. Even sick people could not go to the hospital," he said, adding: "First we thought things would improve, but they did not." Eventually, Ahmadullah and his family had to walk much of the way to safety because buses and trucks were full.
"I miss my home in Swat. I have spent most of my life there; I really want to go back," he said. Pakistan hosts more than 1.7 million registered Afghans.
Rabia Ali in Peshawar, Pakistan